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California Institute of Technology

REQUIREMENTS AND CAMPUS GUIDE

School Name: California Institute of Technology
School Location: Pasadena, CA
School Type: STEM
Category: High Reach

CalTech Admissions Rates Fall 2020

Applications: 8,007
Admitted: 7%

General Info

SAT/ACT Score

Test Optional for 2021-2022
Admission Cycle

Fall 2020 Test Scores
Math: 790-800
ERW: 740-780
ACT: 35-36

Dates/Deadlines

Early Action: November 1
Early Results: Mid-December
Regular Deadline: January 3
Regular Results: Mid-March

School Information

Schedule: 3-term
Curriculum Type:
 Specialized
Greek Life: 
No
Athletics:
DIII

CalTech Application Requirements, Admissions Tips, and University Guide:

The California Institute of Technology, more commonly known as Caltech, is one of the best technical universities in the U.S. and the world. If you want to study STEM in college, but don’t know if Caltech is the right choice for you, take a look at these frequently asked questions to help you decide!

Where is Caltech?

Caltech is one of four colleges in Pasadena, California, a city northeast of Los Angeles. Among the three other colleges, (Pasadena City College, Fuller Theological Seminary, ArtCenter College of Design), Caltech stands out as the only technical university and as the most renowned school in the city. The estimated population of Pasadena is 141,000. Pasadena is most known for hosting the annual Rose Bowl Football game and the Tournament of Roses Parade. Aside from these events, Pasadena tends to be a relatively quiet area, but is conveniently located close to the vibrant city of Los Angeles (the second-largest city in the U.S.). To get a better sense of Caltech visually, you can take a virtual tour of the campus.

How do I apply to Caltech?

Caltech accepts applications in two rounds: Early Action and Regular Decision. Early action is a non-binding, non-restrictive program, meaning that if you apply early to Caltech, you are free to apply to other schools (EA, ED, or Regular Decision) and that if you are accepted you don’t have to attend. The deadline to apply Early Action to CalTech is November 1st, and the early action admissions decision release date is in mid-December. If you are applying regular decision, the deadline to apply to CalTech is January 3rd and admissions decisions are released in mid-March.

For both early and regular applicants, you must accept or reject your place at Caltech by May 1. You can apply to Caltech through either the Common Application or Coalition Application. Either way, you will need to write CalTech’s supplemental application essays. There are three short essay questions (100-250 words) which will serve as insight into you as a student, scientist, and person. Caltech is also a QuestBridge Partner, so low-income students that have been selected as Finalists can apply to Caltech for free through Questbridge’s National College Match program or through Questbridge Regular Decision. CalTech also offers multiple options for students to get fee waivers, including an email from a school counselor.

Can I afford Caltech?

Like many top schools, Caltech offers generous need-based financial aid. Additionally, their admissions are need-blind for U.S. citizens. Financial aid funds for international students are more limited, so those admissions are need-sensitive to ensure they can meet admitted students’ full demonstrated need. Without aid, the total cost of attending CalTech for the 2021-2022 academic year is $79,947, which includes tuition, housing, as well as estimated personal expenses and books. In addition, CalTech offers a non-mandatory (as long as students can provide proof of comparable care) $3,576 health insurance policy and charges a $500 orientation fee to all freshmen. Though this is undoubtedly a very costly college, many will qualify for financial aid. A typical Caltech financial aid package will meet your demonstrated need through a combination of grants and scholarships, student employment, and student loans.

There are a couple of factors that can affect your financial aid even after you’ve started attending Caltech. In order to maintain your financial aid, you must demonstrate “satisfactory academic progress.” On the other hand, “underloading” (taking fewer classes than a full course load) can decrease your cost of tuition and consequently your financial aid package as well. Financial aid can also change with your family circumstances (for example, if one of your siblings begins or finishes college). We always recommend that students use the Net Price Calculator for each school they’re seriously considering—to find out what Caltech would cost for you and your family, you can estimate your EFC (expected family contribution) and financial aid package here.

Am I eligible to apply to Caltech?

Caltech has a few specific requirements for high school students. They require certain courses: by the time you graduate high school, you should have taken four years of math, one year of physics, one year of chemistry, completed the most advanced and rigorous English coursework at your school, and one year of U.S. history or government (for students in the U.S.).

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Caltech eliminated the requirement for SAT subject tests. At the same time, admissions officers announced a three-year moratorium on the general SAT and ACT requirement, shifting instead to an emphasis on coursework rigor and academic preparedness.

What are academics at Caltech like?

At Caltech, ‘techers’ declare their “option” (Caltech speak for major) at the end of their freshman year. There are a variety of departments to choose from—yes, even a division for the humanities and social sciences. In addition to this extensive list of options to pursue, there are also 12 minors to choose from, and an interdisciplinary studies program. This program allows students to design, with a faculty adviser, a customized course of study that is not fully addressed by existing Caltech options.

Research is the cornerstone of a Caltech education. Caltech treats its students like professional scientists from the moment they step foot on campus. Thanks to that mentality, they seamlessly integrate research and education. Over half of Caltech students begin conducting research during their first year, and 80% of undergraduates participate in research.

How does Caltech compare to MIT?

If you want to attend a top technical institute in the U.S., you have a few popular options: MIT, Georgia Tech, and Caltech. MIT is one of the most world-renowned universities for STEM, and comes in at the top of most STEM-related rankings. Caltech ranks higher than MIT for student:faculty ratio and research impact. MIT is also significantly larger – during the 2019-2020 academic year, 4,530 undergraduate students were enrolled at MIT. During the same academic year, 938 undergraduate students were enrolled at Caltech. As Caltech points out, the school is designed to be a small and intimate campus community, and students applying should ask themselves “how they’d thrive on a college campus with fewer than 1,000 undergraduates.”

While it might be helpful to compare the two, you can’t easily say that one is better than the other; they both excel in particular areas, and it’s up to you to decide what is the most important criteria for you. Both schools conduct cutting-edge research and have well-funded labs, meaning that you will flourish as a student and scientist as long as you take the initiative to do so.

What is Caltech’s student body like?

Caltech admitted 244 undergraduate students to the class of 2024. This class body consists of 58% men and 42% women with 22% of students self-identifying as American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic/Latinx, Black/African American, and/or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.

Caltech reports the following racial demographics for overall enrollment in 2020-2021: 46% white, 48% Asian, 18% Hispanic/Latinx, 4% Black or African American, 2% American Indian or Alaska Native, 1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and <1% race/ethnicity unknown.

What special opportunities does Caltech have

Attending Caltech comes with more than just the privilege of studying at one of the best places of research and higher learning in the world; you can also study abroad and make the whole world your classroom. Caltech currently offers six official programs, in Cambridge, London, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Paris, and Melbourne. You can learn more about these programs on the Fellowship Advising and Study Abroad Office website.

If you’re not so keen on the idea of going abroad to study, but still want to add some variety to your college experience, then Caltech’s cross-registration program might be a good fit for you. Caltech has formal agreements with Occidental College, a liberal arts college in L.A., and Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. These unique opportunities allow you to expand your knowledge of the fine arts or humanities. Plus, you don’t have to pay tuition to the other colleges, and you receive Caltech credit, so there’s really no downside! Still, only about 15% of students find time to study abroad.

What is residential life like at CalTech?

Caltech doesn’t have dorms, instead it has eight student houses and residences, which consist of single, double, and triple bedrooms. Each of these housing options are small, close-knit residential communities staffed by at least one Resident Associate and one Residential Life Coordinator. Caltech guarantees housing for first and second years undergraduates. A vast majority of students live on campus for their entire undergraduate experience, resulting in a strong sense of community. Each of the houses plan social events and outings, often collaborating with other houses. Since housing is important to Caltech, first years are placed in temporary housing until they’ve had time to explore each of their housing options during a two-week period called “rotation.” During rotation, students have the freedom (and are encouraged) to try different houses or residences to find the right fit. Housing costs vary by room and building, so if you want to experience living in a nicer room, you don’t have to commit to paying the higher fee for all four years.

What extracurricular opportunities do they have at CalTech?

Caltech has a variety of clubs that cater to various academic interests, religious communities, sports, and other interests such as mixology and feminism. You can check out the full list of clubs on their website. You also have an opportunity to start your own club at Caltech, so if you don’t see a club that perfectly matches your interests, you can assemble a group of people and found a new organization. Additionally, Caltech has 16 intercollegiate varsity sports at the Division 3 level. They also have several intramural sports such as basketball, dodgeball, soccer, and volleyball which are open to all currently enrolled Caltech undergrad/graduate students, faculty, staff, members and their guests.